All this talk about Coronavirus can get scary. Even adults aren’t exactly sure what’s going on, how to move forward, or what life is going to be like over the next weeks, months, or even a few years.
So, of course, talking to your children about their health and safety is especially difficult during this time. To help you speak with confidence and cover all your bases, we’ve come up with a plan to help get you started.
Find Out What They Know
The first step is understanding your child’s point of view. Ask them what they think is going on, what they are hearing from friends or family, and how they feel about it. To start, don’t correct or interrupt your child, just let them speak. Understanding everything they are thinking and feeling will help you respond in ways that will give them more peace of mind. Also, having an adult actively listening to them gives children better feelings of safety, security, and trust.
Use Age-Appropriate Language
If your child doesn’t understand certain terms–especially if they are constantly hearing them on the news and in conversation–they sometimes will pretend they understand instead of asking about it.
While things like “shelter-in-place” or even “quarantine” seem like everyday terminology to us, they can seem much scarier to a kid who doesn’t understand. Instead, replace phrases like “practice social distancing” with something easier to understand, such as “give people more personal space”. You should also avoid any language that discriminates against race, ethnicity or anyone who is sick.
Offer Comfort and Understanding
It’s important to let your children talk about their fears openly. After they have had a moment, respond with calm and understanding. Let your child know that you are available to talk should they need it, and that you will listen whenever they need you.
Learn the Facts
This step is the hardest because restrictions and plans change with the virus. as much as you can. Give children information that is honest and accurate. Let them know that some of the information they might be exposed to (especially on the internet or social media) is not accurate and that it is okay to ask about it.
Most importantly, show that it is okay to not have all the answers. If you don’t know the answer, tell them so in a way that reassures them and does not raise their anxiety or fear. Check out the CDC’s website for the most up-to-date info and general discussion facts for kids.